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Physical activity linked to longer life after cancer diagnosis

Men who partake in physical activity after diagnosis have better mortality outcomes

A new study shows men expended more than 12,600 calories per week in physical activity were 48% less likely to die of any cause, 38% less likely to die of cancer and 49% less likely to die of cardiovascular disease during the follow-up period.
GettyImages/Rob Lang

An overabundance of research from large studies supports evidence linking physical activity and health benefits in apparently healthy individuals.

The number of cancer survivors is increasing rapidly; however, little is known about whether engaging in physical activity after a cancer diagnosis is associated with lower mortality rates in men.

Dr. Kathleen Y. Wolin, PhD, ScD, FACSM, Associate Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences, of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and co-author of study along with colleague’s conducted a prospective cohort study of 1, 021 men (average age 71) from the Harvard Alumni Health Study who were diagnosed with cancer (other than non-melanoma skin cancer).

In 1998, a median of 6 years after their cancer diagnosis, the men answered questionnaires about their physical activities, including walking, stair-climbing and participation in sports and recreational activities. Physical activity was updated in 1993 and men were followed until 2008,

During the study time 777 men died (337 from cancer, 190 from cardiovascular disease).

After adjusting for confounding factors of age, smoking, body mass index, early parental mortality and dietary variables. (By comparison, a 176-pound man who walks briskly for 30 minutes a day, five days a week burns 4,200 calories.).

In comparison to men who expended fewer than 2,100 calories per week in physical activity, men men who expended more than 12,600 calories per week were 48 percent less likely to die of any cause during the follow-up period.

Higher levels of physical activity also were associated with lower rates of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease. The most physically active cancer survivors were 38 percent less likely to die of cancer and 49 percent less likely to die of cardiovascular disease during the follow-up period.

In their conclusion the researchers write “Engaging in physical activity after cancer diagnosis is associated with better survival among men.” "Thus physical activity should be actively promoted to such individuals to enhance longevity.”

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